The Whalesharks of Oslob

Whale sharks are the largest known extant fish species. It is considered as the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, which is comparable to many of the largest dinosaurs in weight. This species originated approximately about 60 million years ago.



They love to stay in tropical and warm waters, which is why it is not unusual to find them in the Philippine seas. Among these places are Sorsogon, Southern Leyte, Batangas, and of course Oslob, Cebu. Despite their very large mouths, these species feed mainly on planktons and and small shrimps. They don't eat big fishes or even humans as opposed to the fear of some people because of the word "shark" attached to its name. It doesn't even have teeth. The abundance of small shrimps in the waters of Oslob is the main reason why these creatures love to stay in the area.  The locals call it "Tuki" while it is more popularly known in the country as "Butanding".



Before the whale sharks became a tourist attraction in Oslob, the fishermen considered these giants as pests since they consume their supply of small shrimps which the fishermen use as bait to catch fishes in the ocean. It all started when a Korean national once been scuba diving near the whaleshark area where it is now in Tan awan. He was so fascinated with these gentle creatures that he took photos of it and posted it on the internet. Slowly, some foreigners came to the area to experience this extraordinary encounter with the "butandings". The fishermen turned tour guides, knowing that they feed on small shrimps, tried to lure them nearer to the shore by feeding them with the small shrimps which was initially intended for fishing. At first there was only one "butanding" that responded. They named it "Fermin". Until gradually, they grew in number. The feeding made the whale sharks keep coming back for more everyday until it became a part of their daily routine when tourists from all over the world, not just from the Philippines, visited Oslob to meet these gentle giants. Everyday there are a maximum of 10-15 of them in the area ready to greet to the tourists hello.



There were many protests from local organizations and abroad urging to stop feeding the "tuki" because it interferes with their natural behavior. In respond to this, the local government of Oslob created an organization to oversee the the proper handling of these creatures and prevent the people who are trying to abuse them. Before engaging in the whaleshark watching in Tan awan Oslob, everyone must attend the briefing on the do's and dont's while in the area. Feeding time is set on from 6:00 in the morning until 12:00 noon to give the "tuki" a chance search for their own food.